Still great­est if we can’t ad­dress mass shoot­ings?

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - COMMENTARY - — The Char­lotte Ob­server

Does it make sense to con­tinue call­ing the United States the great­est na­tion in the world when we can’t even have a sen­si­ble dis­cus­sion about, let alone solve, one of the most vex­ing is­sues fac­ing us?

Things have got­ten so bad that af­ter yet an­other mass shoot­ing — this time end­ing in the death of 26 peo­ple, with 20 oth­ers in­jured at a church in Texas — and be­fore the blood dried on the pews, a pre­dictable, mind­numb­ing de­bate erupted.

There were those who sent out the typ­i­cal “thoughts and prayers” tweets.

There were those who im­me­di­ately re­sponded that thoughts and prayers are not enough.

There were those say­ing, once again, that it was too soon to talk about pol­icy, though a week ear­lier they were quick to talk im­mi­gra­tion laws when an im­mi­grant who pledged al­le­giance to ISIS used a truck as a bat­ter­ing ram in New York, killing eight peo­ple.

And there was the in­evitable back-and-forth about whether more, or bet­ter, gun con­trol mea­sures or more ef­fec­tively deal­ing with men­tal ill­ness was the key to solv­ing a prob­lem no other in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tion in the world must con­tend with. (The U.S. Air Force ap­par­ently failed to re­port the shooter’s past through the proper chan­nels, which al­lowed him to clear back­ground checks he oth­er­wise would not have.)

It is cer­tainly no mark of great­ness to be the worst in the world when it comes to pro­tect­ing our cit­i­zens from gun vi­o­lence, when more than 30,000 are killed ev­ery year through homi­cides, sui­cides and ac­ci­den­tal shoot­ings.

We have more than 300 mil­lion guns in the hands of ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans — a rate un­matched any­where else on Earth — and in the face of yet an­other mass shoot­ing, the Texas at­tor­ney gen­eral won­dered why we don’t have even more guns in churches, just as a Repub­li­can con­gress­man wanted more guns in Congress af­ter a shoot­ing at a con­gres­sional softball prac­tice.

Now, three of the top five mass shoot­ings in mod­ern Amer­ica have oc­curred dur­ing the past 18 months. Such shoot­ings have be­come so com­mon that the Columbine mas­sacre, which shocked the na­tion in 1999 and led to mas­sive changes in schools, is no longer ranked in the top 10.

We were mo­men­tar­ily moved by a Las Ve­gas shoot­ing that killed 59 peo­ple and in­jured sev­eral hun­dred and spoke, briefly, about lim­it­ing ac­cess, not to high-pow­ered guns, but kits that could mod­ify them into au­to­matic weapons. We couldn’t even get that done, just as we couldn’t when scores of el­e­men­tary kids were killed in Sandy Hook and polls showed 90 per­cent of the pub­lic was in fa­vor of tighter back­ground checks.

A coun­try that can’t keep its res­i­dents safe from a plague that doesn’t af­fect any other in­dus­tri­al­ized na­tion — and can’t even com­mit to try­ing un­til the prob­lem is solved — should not be pat­ting it­self on the back about its great­ness.

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